17 November 2000

Pig transport stress to come under scrutiny

INCREASING concern about improving welfare of pigs being transported within the UK and EU has prompted an investigation into ways in which technology can monitor stress levels in pigs on the move.

With a £73,000 grant from MAFF, Janet Talling from the Central Science Laboratory in York, is leading the project to design and develop a non-invasive technique to measure stress.

A low-cost option, using sensors in the pigs ear canal, has been developed by David Chesmore of the University of Hull. The sensors will record the animals heart rate and core body temperature. The data is transmitted by low power radio links to the base unit in the transporters cab.

"Monitoring heart rate and core body temperature should ensure that critical temperature and humidity arent exceeded during long distance transportation," says Dr Talling.

The project aims to produce a system which will monitor 32 pigs at the same time.

"The sensors will be easy to use and simple enough for stock persons to put in and remove," says Dr Talling. "We want the sensors to be high tech but low cost and disposable."